For the second straight season, the NHL is not short on Calder Trophy candidates. The league announced Thursday that Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Lain and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski are the three finalists for Rookie of the Year.
Matthews became the sixth teenaged NHL rookie to score 40 goals this season. He finished the regular season with 40 goals and 69 points. Matthews led the league with 32 goals at even strength.
Behind his strong play, the Maple Leafs went back to the playoffs for the first time in four years. Toronto is currently tied 2-2 in its first-round matchup with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals. The Maple Leafs had several rookie stars on their team, with Matthews leading the way.
In any normal year, Lain and Werenski are probably shoo-ins for the Calder Trophy, but this clearly isn’t a traditional season from a rookie perspective. Lain scored 36 goals, including 27 at even strength. He also had 64 points in 73 games.
Matthews and Lain went first and second overall, respectively, in last year’s draft. Regardless of how the Calder Trophy vote turns out, these two will be connected for the rest of their careers.
Werenski went eighth overall in the 2015 NHL draft and debuted this year at 19. He quickly became Columbus’ best skater and helped the Blue Jackets post franchise records of 50 wins and 108 points.
He registered 11 goals and 47 points with a plus-17 rating in 78 games. Unfortunately, his season ended on Sunday when he took a puck to the face and suffered a facial fracture. Columbus has ruled him out for the rest of the season.